Dianne White recommends …
Tiny Jumper: How Tiny Broderick Created the Parachute Rip Cord
written by Candy Dahl
illustrated by Maithili Joshi
little bee books | 978-1499813944
“Georgia Ann Thompson weighed only three pounds at birth on April 8th, 1893.
Everyone called her Tiny, and the nickname stuck.”
At the age of six Tiny had to begin working in order to help her family. The work was hard, the days long. Her young life had become an endless cycle of poor working conditions and menial tasks.
In spite of the difficult challenges, at the end of the day, Tiny “would climb to a treetop to get away… and imagine rising UP…, far away from fields and mills.” She had big dreams and those “dreams gave her hope.” Even so, she had little reason to believe her life would change significantly.
Then, in 1907, while attending the North Carolina State Fair, she “watched a hot-air balloon rise in the air…, a man balancing on a trapeze underneath it” and she got an idea. She wanted to rise in a balloon, just like the World Famous Aeronaut, Charles Broadwick, had done.
A year later, at the 1908 State Fair, Tiny’s dreams began to take flight. But that was only the beginning. By 1913, Tiny had became the first woman to parachute from an airplane. And In 1914, her courage and quick reactions allowed her to make the split-second decision that saved her life. Not only did she cut the static line after it had become tangled in the tail of a plane, but she also managed to find and jerk at the nub of line — while freefalling — thereby breaking the strings that covered the parachute. The piece of line she pulled would later become known as a rip cord.
I’m so pleased author Candy Dahl agreed to answer a few questions about her debut picture book, Tiny Jumper: How Tiny Broadwick Created the Parachute Rip Cord, vibrantly illustrated by Maithili Joshi.
DIANNE: It’s been a thrill to finally hold your book in my hands! In some ways, this is a book of your heart, about a daring woman — Tiny Broadwick — who had a dream that she wasn’t afraid to pursue. Can you talk a little bit about the initial spark that set you on path to writing this book?
CANDY: Thank you, Dianne, for giving me this opportunity to speak to my writing process in general and to talk a little about Tiny Jumper! I love to write historical fiction. This book is my first non-fiction picture book biography. Generally, I become obsessed with a subject after I visit an intriguing place or read about an amazing event or person, especially if that place or event or person is little-known. Daily, Monday through Friday, I receive a blog from the Office of the State Archives of North Carolina entitled “This Day in North Carolina History.” That’s where I first read of Tiny Broadwick, who was born in 1893 just 44 miles from where I currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I could not get out of my mind that poverty-stricken, uneducated girl who lived with such joy and courage and determination that she changed the world of parachuting forever!
DIANNE: I imagine that finding the throughline for a picture book biography can be one of the most, if not the most, significant decisions a picture book writer needs to make. But we both know that writing picture books can often be a circuitous journey. Double that when you add in all the decisions inherent in writing a biography. Questions like — should this be a birth to death story, or a story about the subject’s most important milestones? What will you keep in? What should you leave out? Can you talk about some of the decisions you considered as you worked on Tiny Jumper?
CANDY: Whew! My first draft of Tiny Jumper covered her life in detail from birth to death. It had to have been 2,500 words. When I learned I needed to get the manuscript under 1,000 words, I almost gave up. Right away, I knew I had to concentrate on the years Tiny Broadwick was actively parachuting. But she had accomplished so many firsts in those years — not only parachuting from hot-air balloons at an early age, but becoming the first woman to parachute from a plane, the first woman or man to parachute from outside a hydroplane, and the first woman to make a water jump from a plane. And then she made her near-disastrous jump in her demonstration of a pack parachute to the US Army that resulted in her creating the rip cord to save her life. After many revisions, I zeroed in on her two most important accomplishments which changed the world of parachuting forever — the first woman to parachute from a plane and her courage to cut away from a static line and pull open the parachute’s covering herself as she hurtled toward earth at 80 feet per second.
DIANNE: Numerous reviewers of the book have mentioned the wonderful quotes you included throughout Tiny’s stories. I know it happens that first-hand accounts aren’t always readily available. But you were able to track down some marvelous quotes that give readers a picture of Tiny’s mindset and her adventurous spirit. Can you briefly talk about the research you did? Any surprises? Any challenges?
CANDY: In my research, I was blessed to find a biography of Tiny Broadwick, written by Elizabeth Whitley Roberson and published in 2001. She included an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, which also included pictures and quotes from people who knew Tiny well. A great resource for quotes came from a personal interview conducted in the later years of Tiny’s life by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. They were kind enough to share the interview with me and even more gracious to review my manuscript for authenticity.
DIANNE: Tiny Jumper is a beautiful book and I know you’ll be keeping very busy over the coming months, sharing her story with readers in North Carolina and beyond. What are you looking forward to in the months ahead? What do you hope your young readers will take away from Tiny’s amazing story?
CANDY: In the months ahead, I will be speaking at the North Carolina Museum of History on Sunday afternoon, December 10, 2023. The museum has one of Tiny’s parachutes, and it will be on display along with some other artifacts. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that a paratrooper from Fort Liberty’s 82nd Airborne will join us to demonstrate a modern parachute. Then in July 2024, dates TBD, I will Zoom on a Friday and speak on a Saturday, from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.
I hope young readers will understand the determination and perseverance that Tiny Broadwick used to make her life what she wanted it to be, and that in that life she found fulfilling joy. Physical attributes made no difference in Tiny’s drive and focus to achieve her goals. Tiny Broadwick proved that a brave, hardworking girl is a strong and powerful force who can change the world!
DIANNE: Thanks for the interview, Candy, and for sharing Tiny Broadwick’s amazing story!
Don’t miss this Tiny Jumper ACTIVITY KIT to accompany the book!
Dianne White is a writing teacher and award-winning author of picture books, including . Green on Green, The Sharing Book, and the forthcoming Finding Grateful. For more, visit diannewrites.com
Originally posted on Readerkidz.com and reprinted here with permission.